A couple of seasons ago, off the back of the tail-end of SS22 runways, the fashion climate of the moment reached a consensus: sex was set to return in place of being suited and booted. This idea was nothing unexpected or particularly new. After all, an aughts resurgence was predicted to hurtle towards us thanks to the hyper-sped-up trend cycles of today. They came in droves. Mini skirts and crop tops slashed to cover only what was necessary (or not necessary), Y2K butterflies reentered the conversation, and we gabbed on with excitement about the fact that "sexy was back". By the time couture week rolled around, a new wave of excitement was delivered via surrealism – as all great couture weeks offer. Sexiness was traded in for absurdity and subversion, which carried over into FW22 collections, and one thing that became glaringly obvious, was that fashion was sick of sartorialism.
You can see it now, can't you? If you are anyone who reads websites that have anything to do with fashion, you'll be familiar with the phrase "sartorial" and how it is fed to us in heaped spoons. Since Pheobe Philo's iconic reign at Celine and the unrelenting grip that The Row still holds on us, a sartorial wardrobe has become equivalent to a good wardrobe, thus, if it's not sartorial, it's not worth the price tag. But what is good fashion without excitement? McQueen knew this unequivocally, as did Galliano, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Jean-Paul Gaultier himself. Now, there is a new generation of designers pushing forward into surrealism, and finally, as we are digging our way out of homogenous uniformity (no shade to our beloved suit wearers out there for I am one of you), fashion for fun is making a case for itself again.
AW22 had an abundance of trompe l’œil. From Jonathan Anderson's tassel glove nail extensions and balloon heels for Loewe to Matthieu Blazy's debut leather jeans look at Bottega Veneta, there were trippy and comical offerings everywhere. For couture, Glenn Martens' presentation for Jean Paul Gaultier played with trippy lines, volume, and gilded cut out leaf embellishments reminiscent of McQueen's 2008 butterfly headpiece, while Daniel Roseberry played with the elemental and otherworldly for Schiaparelli Haute Couture.
We know that this fixation is not entirely new, after all, we only had to witness the infamous Margiela Tabi come violently swinging into the mainstream to smell a shift in the air, but the timeline also almost lines up with the century anniversary of the introduction of surrealism as an art form. Interestingly (and predictably), not much has changed from a fashion perspective over those 100 years if you look closely enough. For our 100th issue, I wrote about how, on another hand, many of the FW22 shows tapped into a calling for workwear uniformity with an emphasis on protective dressing and battle wear. Through this – the balaclavas and the chain mail, the bomber jackets and the combat boots, was a sense of escapism. This time, it wasn't escapism to Positano, it was into the ether, into art, into the multiverse, into a reality that was not plagued by the horrors of war – one that was being waged on the neighbours of so many of the cities shows were held in. Could it be that the artistic reaction to these tumultuous times will present themselves in the same ways they did 100 years ago?
The parallels between the needs of the modern consumer versus those back in the 1920s and 30s are eerily similar, as fashion is not-so-subtly letting on. And as creatives start to oscillate between feelings of hope and hopelessness, we turn to art and fashion to serve up steaming hot inspiration for us to drink down. Sometimes it needs to be about loud colours (if the dopamine dressing trend doesn't prove this, what will?), trompe l’œil, and balloon dresses to feel excited and inspired about getting dressed again, and as the colder months approach and we begin to gravitate towards our trusty "forever coats", the answer of where sartorialism fits in with surrealism, will emerge.